Club Allemand International: A 50-year history in the Principality
The Club, founded in 1973, now has nearly 200 members and is considered one of the most active groups in Monaco.
It is blowing out 50 candles this year. Since 1973, the Club Allemand International (CAI -German International Club) of Monaco has been bringing together Germans from the Principality who wish to meet up, but also all those who wish to discover more about culture from over the Rhine.
German-born Beatrix Baroness von Dellingshausen, and Patrick Wetzel, a Swiss national, have co-chaired the Club for the past six years. Both are very proud to be part of the CAI, an institution that has one foot in tradition and the other in modernity.
“The Club was founded fifty years ago, thanks to Karl Vanis. He was a German hotelier, director of the Hôtel de Paris, and he went on to be President of the club for 24 years. He saw that there were clubs for other nationalities, such as the Swiss, or the British, and he thought it would be interesting to start a club for the Germans. It was something that was missing in Monaco: a club or an organisation that could bring them together,” says Patrick.
Among the illustrious German personalities Karl Vanis met through his work was Prince Louis de Polignac. First cousin of Prince Rainier III, he was also Honorary President of the SBM and a member of the board of directors of the Prince-Pierre-de-Monaco Foundation. His support was pivotal, as the Prince approved the initiative and notified the relevant authorities and the Princely Family. Louis de Polignac even authorised the Club to set up its headquarters at the Hôtel de Paris.
Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace support the initiative
Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace also contributed, becoming Honorary Presidents of the CAI. “I think that at that time the Prince and Princess wanted Monaco to develop, and felt that contacts with important countries, such as Germany, should be fostered. Attracting the German community was part of Monaco’s development, to make the Principality international,” explains Patrick Wetzel.
Princess Grace even wrote an article in the Club’s very first Revue, its annual magazine, welcoming the German community, in 1974.
Five decades later, the Club is looking to the future. It is no longer just about bringing together the German community, which has 950 residents in the Principality, it is about forming a large family. “Everyone knows each other, everyone is on first-name terms… Many networks of friends have been formed within the Club, people socialise with each other. As for the Club, we organise cultural and gastronomic events, excursions, trips… And our members invite other members, as part of the club’s activities. For example, one of our members is an American lady, and every year she invites the Club over to celebrate the 4th of July,” explains Patrick.
No need to be a German citizen, or even to speak the language to join the CAI. In 1975, only two years after its foundation, the Club Allemand (German Club) added International to its name. “Some don’t even speak German, but they are interested in German culture and what the club has to offer,” says Patrick. “We have about 20 different nationalities among the 180 members. What matters is that people have a good time together,” adds Beatrix.
A family spirit
So what are the criteria for joining the CAI?
“The Club is open to anyone who shares its family outlook,” explains Patrick. “We always arrange an interview and then invite the person to come to a few events to see if it suits them. You don’t necessarily have to live in Monaco, but you have to like the Principality.”
In concrete terms, this means that future members must share the Club’s values. “We have turned people away in the past, people who had certain expectations. We are not a business club and do not want our membership list to be used for commercial purposes,” Beatrix insists.
So there is no risk of Patrick and Beatrix straying from their stated objectives; the Club must retain its friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
Bringing German culture to Monaco
The CAI also promotes German culture in the Principality. From a very early age, in fact. “We visit the schools and help educational institutions to organise trips to Germany, for example to Berlin. We also give prizes to the best students in German, and we even gave out sweets to all the 160 youngsters who study the language in the Principality,” says Patrick.
The Club also supports the “DeutschMobil”: a car that travels around the Principality to encourage students to choose German as a foreign language.
Because the Club’s objective is above all to promote Germany, in particular by encouraging any ideas in the Principality that put the country in the spotlight. “We are currently supporting a research department from Hamburg during Monaco Ocean Week, by organising a small cocktail party for the participants during their conference. We have also just supported German artists who exhibited at the Espace 22 gallery,” Beatrix says.
A number of initiatives that contribute to the Club’s popularity. Patrick and Beatrix have no intention of resting on their laurels: projects are still coming thick and fast.
“50 years is a long time. This is why we are constantly looking to keep the Club fresh. The CAI is without a doubt one of the most prestigious, reputable and active clubs in Monaco,” says Patrick. “Traditions are our foundations, but with a modern touch,” adds Beatrix, who hopes to “see even more Germans in the Principality.”
Very close ties with the Princely Family
A member of 12 years standing, she has many lovely memories within the Club. But she still fondly remembers her first meeting with Prince Albert II, who is now Honorary President of the Club, like his parents before him: “the Prince is very accessible, very open-minded. I was surprised by his kindness, by his interest in others.”
“For me, it’s not really a memory, but I’m always very surprised, as President of the Club, to see how easy it can be to organise something. As soon as we have an idea, I’ll make a phone call and I get put in touch with the appropriate person. Thanks to the Club’s history and reputation, it’s easy to contact just about anyone,” adds her co-president.
This is why the Club manages to organise an average of 30 events per year. From the Circus Festival to the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, by way of the Jumping tournament: members can take part in the Principality’s major events, together. But the CAI also organises its own events, to do with German culture, such as the first Sunday of Advent, which is very popular in Germany, German Unity Day (celebrated on 3 October) or the famous Oktoberfest.
For its 50th anniversary, the CAI is also planning to invite all the German-speaking residents of the Principality to meet up on the Larvotto Esplanade at the end of September.
Last but not least, the CAI is about charity work. In 50 years, the Club has raised nearly €3.7 million euros to support various organisations, both internationally and in the Principality, such as the A.M.A.DE, the CHPG, the Monegasque Red Cross, the Princess Grace Foundation, the Ordre de Malte, and the AMAPEI.
And for its fiftieth anniversary, the Club would like to donate 50,000 euros to plant 50 trees and help to “re-nature” the Principality, in cooperation with the Urban Planning Department. In parallel, the CAI will financially support one of the Prince Albert II Foundation’s projects.
This is another illustration of the close ties between the Club and the Princely Family: “the Family has supported us from the outset. Prince Albert II speaks German very well, as does Princess Caroline. The Grimaldi family also has roots in Germany. (…) This year all our events are under the High Patronage of the Prince, and the Sovereign will come to celebrate the great Jubilee Gala with us, mid-July, in the Salle Empire at the Hôtel de Paris,” state Patrick and Beatrix.
Both of them have their sights set on one goal: to attract more members and continue to promote German culture, in Monaco and further afield.